Penguin Cafe – The Imperfect Sea

Album Review by Jamie Bowman | 02 May 2017
  • Penguin Cafe – The Imperfect Sea
Album title: The Imperfect Sea
Artist: Penguin Cafe
Label: Erased Tapes
Release date: 5 May

Arthur Jeffes’ decision to resurrect the name and sound of his late father’s iconic instrumental project looked an unlikely proposition when he started Penguin Café in 2009.

The original Penguin Café Orchestra’s blend of exuberant folk and minimalist classical music proved hugely popular during the 1980s and into the 1990s before the tragic early death of Simon Jeffes in 1997 brought the project to the close.

Restarting the band eight years ago as a continuation and homage to his father’s legacy proved a live success but quite how the new group would emerge from such a sizeable shadow remained unclear until 2010’s A Matter of Life... and this year’s sophomore set shows that Penguin Café’s reputation was in good hands.

Opener Ricercar sounds typically jaunty with its replication of the sort of acoustic dance music that has become so popular with TV advert directors down the years recalling the likes of Music For A Found Harmonium and Perpetuum Mobile.

Elsewhere more filmic, ambient sounds pervade with the album also featuring covers of electronic works by Simian Mobile Disco and Kraftwerk, along with a re-working of Jeffes senior's 'Now Nothing'.

The Penguins’ music always defied easy definition and Arthur’s determination to keep the band’s trademark sound keep careering its way from traditional folk and pop styles to minimalism and South American music is admirable in the extreme. What’s even better is that the music is now matching the sentiment. 

Listen to: Ricercar, Franz Schubert

Buy Penguin Cafe - The Imperfect Sea on LP/CD from Norman Records